I lived in the Dakotans nearly a decade before making a pan of scotcheroos for myself. Looking back, I guess I was just coasting along on the kindness of others. I’m quite spoiled by a plethora of from-around-here friends. It should also be noted that I never miss a church potluck–and there are always scotcheroos at a church potluck.
Recently, however, that changed. In a perfect storm of events, I found Rice Krispies on sale at the commissary the same week a new family moved into our church from California. I wanted to give them a real Hotdish Land welcome, so we invited them to join us for dinner and immediately put Tater Tot Hotdish and Scotcheroos on the menu.
I looked up the recipe, got out the bowls, then stood at my counter–a little apprehensive.
This is a North Dakotan’s favorite dessert. This is an integral part of Hotdish culture. I’m not even from around here. Who am I to attempt such a culinary feat? What if I mess it up and the Californians are scarred against life in Minot forever?
To curb my nerves, I took to the friendly streets of Instagram. I put a quick post on my stories about my first scotcheroo attempt. Soon, notifications started pinging. There were locals spurring me on, and offering tips. Then there were transplants like myself–some wanting to know the recipe. Many simply asking, “What’s a scotcheroo?”
I guess I just thought North Dakotans were constantly identifying newcomers and saying something like, “Hi. Welcome. Here, have a scotcheroo.”
Well, the questions pouring in after posting about my baking attempt proved otherwise. So it’s time to explain. As your resident Minot guru, I’ll explain in “not-from-around-here” terms what exactly we’re talking about.
A scotcheroo is kind of like a Rice Krispy treat, but with peanut butter, and topped with chocolate. It’s also the official state dessert of North Dakota (okay, I made that part up.) But seriously, Hotdishers can’t get enough of these. Just ask a local to tell you about scotcheroos, even mention you’ve never eaten one and watch the floodgates open. It’s the perfect icebreaker.
For very passive people, NoDaks are nothing, if not passionate about their scotcheroos.
There are strong opinions surrounding what makes the best scotcheroo. Some will tell you it’s best to make them with Special K instead of Rice Krispies. Others will tell you that doing so means you’ve made “Special K Bars,” which is a completely different dessert. One local will swear by making the whole thing in the microwave, while another insists stovetop always turns out best.
Let’s put the politics aside. Since that first effort, I’ve made two more batches. They’ve all turned out great. Nothing to be nervous about. I even had a chance to offer one to an Estonian exchange student, who promptly asked me to write down the name of the dessert so she could make them for her family back home.
That’s the magic of bars. Am I right?
Here’s the recipe I used. It’s ridiculously easy, and simple to commit to memory. Now you, too, can make your own–and dazzle your far-away friends and family with this North Dakotan delicacy.
6 cups of rice cereal
1 cup sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1 cup peanut butter
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup butterscotch chips
Here’s what you do:
Melt the sugar and corn syrup together. You can do this on the stovetop or in the microwave. Get it hot enough that the sugar begins to dissolve–but if you’re using a stove just be sure to take it off the heat when it looks like it’s going to boil. (If the sugar gets too hot, it’ll get too hard.)
Mix in the peanut butter.
Then gently mix the peanut butter sauce into the cereal. Once it’s evenly distributed, pour the mixture into a 9×13 pan that you’ve sprayed with cooking oil. Press it down a bit.
Now, put the chocolate and butterscotch chips into a bowl and microwave them in 30 second bursts–stirring between each one–until melted and smooth. Pour that on top of the cereal mixture and spread it out.
Next is the hardest part. Let it firm up. This has to happen at room temperature, so it’ll take 2ish hours. Putting it in the fridge can be risky, because it’ll make the caramel in the bars rock hard. The wait is excruciating.
Then you’re done!
Here’s a couple tips:
Spray your 1 cup measuring cup with cooking oil before measuring the corn syrup and peanut butter. It makes for an easier release.
Don’t pack the cereal down too firm. That makes for a hard bar.
What about you? Have you had scotcheroos? Have you made them? Do you have scotcheroo secrets we need to know? Definitely let me know if you use this recipe!
For more stories of life in Hotdish Land, and tips for cultivating a positive mindset, join me on Instagram (@amy_allender) or on Facebook (@amyallenderblog).